AN EARLY LOOK AT THE 2010 NFL DRAFT's SLEEPERS

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AN EARLY LOOK AT THE 2010 NFL DRAFT's SLEEPERS
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

PIKE’s PEEKING MOVES HIM INTO THE QB CROP ELITE

 

For those that have read my scouting reports on nfldraftscout.com, Cbssportsline.com and NFL.com, you know I pull no punches when it comes to evaluating talent. While the NFL Draft has become the second-biggest media event by the league, outside the Super Bowl, draftniks are always on the lookout for the “hidden talents” in the collegiate ranks.

 

Over the next few months, I will take you on a trip through the NCAA to introduce you to the Rip Van Winkles, the Super Sleepers, the players that may not be well-known to the “draft nation,” but are sure to make their marks in the NFL training camps next year.

 

To begin this series, I examine a player that I feel is closing rapidly on the so-called elite quarterbacks eligible for the 2010 draft, as Cincinnati’s Tony Pike is putting up numbers that rival those of Heisman hopefuls Colt McCoy-Texas and Tim Tebow-Florida.

 

Possessing one of the strongest arms of any college quarterback, Pike’s poise, size and intelligence are primed to lead the Bearcats to greater things in 2009. They will need to secure victories over West Virginia and Pittsburgh to clinch the Big East Conference title, but with Cincinnati firing on all “eight cylinders” so far, it looks like UC faithful will be joining the BCS party come January.

 

Below is my overview, scouting report and game analysis on Pike. My next article will feature one of the most underrated defensive ends/strong-side linebackers that you might have never heard of, Danny Batten-South Dakota State.

 

#15-ANTHONY STEVEN “Tony” PIKE

Quarterback     University of Cincinnati Bearcats     6:05.7-222

Cincinnati, Ohio     Reading Community High School

 

OVERVIEW

While most of the 2009 preseason media attention has shifted to quarterbacks Sam Bradford (Oklahoma), Colt McCoy (Texas) and Tim Tebow (Florida), the signal caller that is drawing the most interest from NFL scouting directors is Tony Pike, a late bloomer who made the most of his opportunity after taking over the starting position for the Bearcats in 2008.

 

Perhaps it is fitting that Pike was recently named to the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award Watch List, an honor presented annually to the top senior quarterback by the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Foundation, encapsulating all that is positive in college sports. The award acknowledges performance on the field for sure. But it goes beyond completion percentage and touchdown strikes. The award values character, citizenship, integrity and those who honor the game, all traits that Pike showed during his remarkable junior campaign.

 

"The winner of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award is recognized not only for his athletic accomplishments, but also for his character, citizenship, scholastic achievement, leadership qualities, and athletic abilities," says John Unitas, Jr., President of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Educational Foundation, Inc. The Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award bears the name of the man many refer to as the finest quarterback ever to play the game of football.

 

Despite not even being listed on the pre-season depth chart, Pike battled those odds to earn the starting quarterback job for Cincinnati after Dustin Grutza suffered a fibula fracture early in the 2008 schedule. Pike started just two games before he was also injured, fracturing his left forearm vs. Akron that would require surgery on September 29th.

 

Showing the “warrior work ethic” made famous by Unitas, Pike not only made a hasty return to the lineup after missing only two games, but also displayed “Brett Favre toughness.” Three weeks after he broke his non-passing arm, the Bearcats quarterback was back taking snaps in practice, returning to the lineup vs. Connecticut.

 

While his return to the lineup was remarkable, teammates still talk about what happened in practice on October 21st. Wearing a bright red #15 jersey that was supposed to protect him from hits in practice, Pike took a snap in shotgun formation that Tuesday and soon got bumped off-balance by a charging defensive player. The Cincinnati coaches thought: Oh, no! But Pike instinctively prevented himself from falling by extending his left arm -- the one with the forearm covered by a soft cast -- to the ground.

 

Then, he took stock of what he felt. The forearm, which is held together by a plate and six screws, didn't hurt at all. It's was a huge boost for Cincinnati, which has gone through four quarterbacks because of injury. "You can't even really feel it anymore," Pike said after practice. "Today we went live a little bit and it was good to be able to fall on it and have the confidence in your mind that you don't have to worry about it in the game."

 

Pike “won over” teammates and the coaching staff with his improved performances each week, going on to compile an 8-2 record as a starter, leading the Bearcats to an 11-3 record, capturing the Big East Conference title and a berth in the BCS, playing vs. Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. He earned second-team All-Big East accolades and was selected to ESPN’s All-Mayday team, chosen by football analyst Mark May, honoring college players who have shown a tremendous amount of toughness and determination through-out a season and/or career.

 

Pike was named the Cincinnati Division II-III Player of the Year as a senior at Reading Community High School, where he also earned Cincinnati Hills League and Southwest Ohio Player of the Year honors. The first-team All-State selection was also chosen to play in the area’s East-West All-Star Game.

 

The senior quarterback went on to establish twelve school passing records. He led the team to a 12-1 record and a runner-up finish in the regionals, as he completed 319-of-531 passes (60.1%) for 4,355 yards and 46 touchdowns to record a 21-4 record as a starter in his last two campaigns.

 

Pike added second-team All-Southwest Ohio recognition and earned honorable mention All-City and All-District accolades as a junior. He also competed in basketball and base-ball. He helped the hoops squad capture the state title as a junior and advance to the regional finals as a senior, as he averaged 12.8 points and 9.6 rebounds.

 

On the baseball diamond, Pike batted .432 with 62 runs batted in, earning All-City honors as a senior. The Honor Roll student was also heavily involved in community service activities, including peer tutoring and participation on the school’s Esteem Team.

 

Pike’s sports bloodlines (brother, Doug, followed Tony to Ready High School, where he lettered as a two-way lineman in football and as a forward on the basketball team) and academic success saw him excel in summer football camps, attending those festivities on the campuses at Purdue, Cincinnati and Bowling Green, among others. His father, Steve, a former linebacker at Kent State, helped Tony in deciding between Toledo and Cincinnati to pursue his collegiate career.

 

After careful review, the Pike family and Tony felt the offer The University of Cincinnati made was the best for them. While Toledo had sent papers for Tony to sign, he was also getting hard looks from the Bearcat's new coaching staff, and liked what he heard from them. The Cincinnati staff had Tony “grey-shirt” during 2004 preseason drills and he later enrolled as a full-time student in January, 2005.

 

While the additional time used by Pike to enroll helped him acclimate to the university life, his football career was put into “moth balls” for his first two seasons. He red-shirted in 2005, but still managed to earn Bearcat Academic Honor Roll recognition during that fall semester. He was assigned jersey #18 upon his arrival and competed for the quarterback position in 2006 fall camp, but never got on the field that year, as he was listed third on the depth chart behind starter Dustin Grutza and second-string QB Nick Davila.

 

In 2007, Pike switched to jersey #15, seeing action behind Grutza and Ben Mauk in five of the team’s first seven games. He finished with just 91 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions while completing 11-of-20 attempts (55.0%). He also added 75 yards on seven rushing attempts (10.7 avg).

 

With Ben Mauk challenging the NCAA in his fight for a sixth year of eligibility and the arrival of Notre Dame transfer Demetrius Jones, Pike was in for a heated battle to move up from the low rungs of Cincinnati’s depth chart during 2008 spring camp. Dustin Grutza eventually was named the team’s starter entering the season, but when injuries depleted the team’s resources behind center, Pike seized his opportunity.

 

In twelve games, he connected on 199-of-324 tosses, as his pass completion percentage of 61.4 rank third on the school’s season-record list. His 2,407 aerial yards rank ninth while his touchdown/interception margin (19/11) rank third, 199 completions rank eighth and 136.39 passing efficiency rating rank eighth on Cincinnati’s annual record charts. His passing efficiency rating also placed third in the Big East Conference for the season, as he was responsible for 20 total touchdowns, adding another score on the ground.

 

Pike earned preseason Johnny Unitas Award recognition and was named the first-team preseason quarterback on The NFL Draft Report’s All-Big East Conference chart. He was also rated as the nation’s most underrated quarterback eligible for the 2010 NFL Draft by that scouting information service. Through the first three games of the 2009 season, Pike ranks tied for fourth in the nation in points responsible for (20.0 ppg), placed eighth in the FBS in pass completions (25 pg) and passing yards (923) and tied for 11th in the major college ranks with an average of 315.33 yards per game in total offense.

 

NOTABLE PERFORMANCES

2008 Best Games          Miami (Oh.), Akron, South Florida, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Syracuse

2008 Worst Games        Oklahoma, Hawaii, Virginia Tech

2007 Best Games          SE Missouri, San Diego State

2007 Worst Games        Louisville

 

SCOUTING REPORT

GENERAL REPORT…GRADE-7.34

Body Structure

Pike has a tall, lean, athletic frame, with big hands, long limbs, broad shoulders and good bubble. He displays a solid chest, thick arms, good overall muscle definition, along with impressive thigh and calf thickness, along with the torso that has the ability to carry at least another ten pounds of bulk with no loss in quickness.    

Athletic Ability            

Pike is a fine all-around athlete, whose mobility and escape-ability could be the product of his fine lateral agility developed on the high school basketball court. He is very athletic on the move, showing impressive foot speed and change of direction skills for a quarterback. He demonstrates good balance and body control on the move, enough to force the defense to account for him when he decides to tuck the ball and run with it (see 2007 SE Missouri and 2008 Miami, Oh. And Pittsburgh games). He has very good strength for his position and is a mobile passer with the nimble feet to make all of his throws when rolling out of the pocket. He has good arm strength and accuracy on sideline, screens, slants and crossing routes. He has the valid foot agility speed and balance to be a threat running with the ball, but is not the type that can separate or accelerate with explosion into the second level. He shows good body control in his pass set-up. When flushed out of the pocket, he has enough leg drive to break tackles and also moves well in the pocket, where he can slide and avoid, showing the ability to be creative when on the move. He does whatever he can to stay alive in the pocket, as he knows he can roll out or scramble with effectiveness, and also is quite adept at stepping up in the pocket and unleashing the ball quickly…GRADE-6.9

Football Sense

Pike is a highly intelligent player with good improvisational ability. He needs to do a better job of making quicker reads and showing a better feel for progressions, but he has just 17 games of experience and should improve with more reps. He has earned academic honors and does well taking plays from the chalkboard to the playing field. He also does a good job of communicating with his targets and has especially developed good synchronicity with top target, Mardy Gilyard. He picks up defensive schemes quickly and is best when making calls at the line of scrimmage, as he does a very good job of scanning the field to make checks and proper adjustments. He is a sharp field general with a nice touch on his tosses. He spends extra hours studying film and shows the instincts and intangibles that teams look for in a quality passer. On the field, the thing you notice is his ability to make frequent reads and checks (just needs to get rid of the ball a bit quicker). Simply put, he is a smart player who runs the system very well and defenses need to game plan vs. him, whether against his arm or feet. He undergoes extensive game preparation on his own and is the type of player that loves to study and learn football. Do not be surprised if he becomes a standout coach some day…GRADE-7.1

Character                    

Pike is a class act both on and off the field. His toughness in the pocket playing with a broken forearm last season saw the team’s veterans quickly gain confidence and appreciation for their injured quarterback. He comes from a supportive family with good sports bloodlines, as his father played linebacker at Kent State and his younger brother followed his path as a football and basketball letterman at Reading High School. He is well-liked in the locker room and while he is not a rah-rah type, he did have control in the huddle. He has no known off-field issues and has high values and even higher expectations from himself on the field. He will not hesitate to get vocal with his team-mates, when needed. While he shows an air of confidence on the field, he is quick to accept blame when the play fails rather than point fingers…GRADE-7.3

Competitiveness          

Pike’s more than proved his “mettle” last year, as he came back after missing just two games from left forearm surgery that required a plate and six screws to repair (played with a sheath and/or a soft cast for most of the balance of the schedule). He has good poise in the pocket, with a little bit of “Brett Favre” in him, as he will not hesitate to challenge a defender to tackle him when he decides to run with the ball. He seemed to strive playing in the “hot seat,” as he came from third on the depth chart during 2008 fall drills to excel when given his first opportunity to start (eight quality performances in ten starting assignments). Late in the year, he had taken a physical beating behind an erratic offensive line (linemen gave up eight sacks in his last three regular season games), but he played through injuries that would sideline most athletes. He can pull the ball down and make something out of a broken play with his feet and is very accurate throwing on the move. He did force the ball a bit late in the year, thanks to poor protection up front (see Syracuse, Hawaii and Virginia Tech games), but did show good ball security, a problem in the past for other Cincinnati quarterbacks. He was forced to throw under duress frequently, but proved to be an outstanding competitor who will stand in the pocket and generally deliver (61.4% accuracy, the third-best season total in school history). It is evident from watching game film that he will compete and take whatever punishment the defense dishes out to make the play…GRADE-8.0

Work Habits    

Pike is a student of the game, a sponge willing to absorb whatever the coaches throw at him. He is a good improviser and dependable worker, more of a “come in early/stay in the film room late” type that any staff would love to have on their team. He might not be as vocal as some of the more “flamboyant” quarterbacks, but he is a respected leader. He is a self-starter with good motivation and can handle hard coaching. He does a lot of extra work (film study, lifting, etc.) on his own and immediately established his leadership role when he took over the starting reigns early in the 2008 season. He is a responsible and accountable player and a terrific competitor…GRADE-7.4

 

ATHLETIC REPORT…GRADE-7.18       

Set Up 

Pike played mostly in the no huddle/shotgun, but showed very good quickness and athleticism in the pocket. He does a good job of setting his feet properly before throwing and has a high release point with a snappy over-head delivery. He displays very good accuracy stepping into his throws (see 2008 Miami, Oh., Akron, South Florida and Pittsburgh games), but also showed good accuracy when forced to throw off-balanced or on the move. He has good, fluid motion on the times when he drops back from center to his pass-set point. He is able to get good depth due to his fine balance and quick feet, but needs to stay in control and be more conscious of the center exchange. He carries the ball chest high and is nimble in his set-up. Because of his size and mobility, he is a threat to throw on the move, showing the body control to keep his feet under him and step into his throws properly. He has excellent balance in his pass set and gets the ball off effortlessly. You will never see him throw off his back foot…GRADE-6.8

Reading Defenses        

Pike is still developing his feel for making quicker progression reads (will sometimes hold on to the ball too long), but seven of his eleven interceptions were the result of his targets not carrying out their assignments. He is generally capable of making right decisions with the ball in his hands (had just 22 passes deflected) and is also quite effective when deciding when to scramble. Even when pressured (teams managed just three QB hurries vs. Pike in 2008), he shows good judgment in not trying to create something out of nothing. Later in the season, he was forced to improvise too often due to poor upfront pass protection and the result was generally not good (seven interceptions and eight pass break-ups in his last three games).  When given time to set his feet and scan the field, he is very good at reading defenses and has the arm strength to make most throws. He sees the field well and takes fewer sacks than most QBs by unleashing the ball at the last second. He is very alert, especially when checking off with his backs and searching out his secondary targets…GRADE-6.6

Release           

Pike looks very quick and efficient releasing the ball with a snappy overhead delivery, but can also fire the ball out with good accuracy on the move (will revert to a ¾ throwing motion), as he demonstrates a tight, compact throwing motion. He gets the ball to his receivers in a hurry without having them to break stride or adjust much to the throw. The thing that impresses scouts is his ability to carry the ball at the top of the numbers, a critical factor for a quarterback to have success getting his throws out with good timing. He has a very quick release with the arm strength to put good zip on the ball. He flashes the ability to get the ball out quickly, especially when he carries it high with no windup. That allows him to get the ball out with pinpoint accuracy. On film review, you can see that the ball comes off Pike’s hand with zip and good touch (see 2008 Akron, South Florida and West Virginia games). He has a nice over-the-top release, and even when he uses a compact ¾ release, he knows how to step into his throws, as his release is much more compact and natural than most spread quarterbacks. When he carries the ball too low, it slows down his delivery and gets him a bit off balance, but he can still throw a tight spiral with a nice spin to his passes…GRADE-7.4

 

 

Arm Strength  

Pike has the ability to fire tight ropes up field (see 2008 Miami, Oh., Akron and Louisville games) and will have no trouble making all the NFL-type vertical throws. He can fit the ball into tight spots with good zip and excites QB coaches when he uncorks the long ball down field with little or no wind-up. He is also effective when throwing the 15-yard out passes and shows good zip on his intermediate throws. There is no question that Pike has the arm strength to make all the throws, showing the power to fire the ball with ease on deep routes. He throws the long ball with decent touch and accuracy, zips the posts and even when he passes off his back foot, he is still able to generate enough velocity. He has a fluid motion throwing down field and can put the ball on a rope if needed. The thing you immediately notice is the way he zips the ball going long, but he needs to show more patience and scan the field better to locate his secondary receivers…GRADE-7.8

Accuracy                     

Pike’s 61.4 pass completion percentage in 2008 rank third on the school season-record list. In ten starts last year, he completed at least 61% of his throws in eight contests. He is especially effective at throwing to his backs on screens and dump-offs, showing the pin-point accuracy and proper foot-set needed. His deep ball accuracy saw him complete 97 of 199 throws for at least ten yards, including 25 that gained 20 yards or more. 29 of his completions came inside the red zone, as he shows good accuracy with underneath tosses. He demonstrates decent touch on his passes and the timing and anticipation skills to hit his receivers in stride. He puts good air behind the short fade routes, knowing when to take something off those throws. He can zip the pass into tight coverage away from the defender, demonstrating good placement. He has very good timing going over the middle and even better timing on out patterns. When pressured and forced to roll out, he has little trouble getting the ball to his target, thanks to the zip he generates, as his receivers rarely have to make big adjustments. On the occasions when he is late getting the ball away, he will get into a bit of trouble (sacks), but with added experience, he should improve his ability to make quicker progression reads. What separates him from most spread-style passers is that he has good ability and touch on screens, sidelines, slants, hitches and crossers. He can also dump it off on swing routes and can get it over the linebacker, throwing a soft, catchable ball…GRADE-7.4

Touch             

Pike makes good decisions and has great timing, but when he is slow making reads, he will force the ball into the flat at times. He can throw down field over the middle, doing a nice job of seeing the linebacker in zone coverage, as he knows how to float the ball over the opponent’s head into the receiver’s hands without his target having to break stride. He gets good placement and accuracy with his intermediate throws and generates good acceleration behind his long tosses. He anticipates well, doing a nice job of releasing the ball before coverage can recover, when given time to set up. He generally does a nice job of airing the ball out and makes it look easy attacking the deep part of the secondary. He has good touch on his deep ball and tries to put it on the outside shoulder of his target. He hits receivers in stride when he sets his feet properly and steps into the ball. He can throw the 30-yard strike with regularity, demonstrating good accuracy. He also shows fine touch on fade routes, screens and short throws. He is not the type that will lock on to just one target and goes through route progressions adequately (in each of his ten starts, he distributed the ball to a minimum of six different receivers in each of those games)…GRADE-7.0

Poise               

Pike looks like a grizzled veteran with his poise in the pocket. He is not the type that will look to run at the first side of protection breakdowns, but when he does take off with the ball, he has the valid foot speed to make things happen (just not the type that will elude defenders on long runs). He stands tall under pressure and is strongly conscious of ball security. He has the confidence to know that he can move the ball with his feet when flushed out of the pocket and will drive hard with his legs to break tackles. When he is given time to throw, he shows patience to allow his receivers to uncover. He is a tough cookie that will stand tall and take a hit, doing a nice job of carrying out fakes. Simply put, he is one of the stronger passers you will find standing in the pocket. He has good courage and confidence in his ability and if he ever gets the protection afforded most quarterbacks, his statistics would soar. He is not prone to panicking and bolting at the first sign of pressure, and has the foot speed to be a dangerous runner in the open field…GRADE-7.5

Leadership                  

Pike has the utmost confidence in his receivers, especially is deep target, Mardy Gilyard and his “safety valve,” tight end Kazeem Alli. He plays with ice water running through his veins and there were several contests in 2008 where he played through terrific pain in his injured forearm (there were a few times where the arm simply went numb on him, but he still executed his play-calling with flare). He is a great leader, more by example, but all his teammates respect his desire to play. He is very calm in the huddle and runs the system like a coach on the field. He is very confident and will never shy away in the clutch. Ever since he stepped into the huddle during the 2008 Miami, Ohio game, the rest of the Bear-cats knew that Pike was in charge. He is a competitive leader who plays with pain and is very effective carrying out fakes. He takes control of the team in both games and practices and the players tend to rally around him. He is a natural leader who can do it by example or if needed, kick someone in the pants to get the rest of the team’s attention…GRADE-7.6

Pocket Movement                   

Pike is quite effective at escaping pressure in the pocket (opponents registered just three hurries vs. him in 2008). He does a good job of getting the ball to his receivers without the target having to adjust or break stride. The offensive scheme calls for a lot of half-field reads and quick rhythm passes, as he does a good job of finding alternative receivers in that system (just needs to quicken his progression reads). He has fluid movement in the pocket. He is not prone to bolting too early, but at times, he should, as he stands in the pocket taking vicious hits trying to make the pass play because of poor protection. He has good awareness and ability to slide in the pocket and continue to scan down field. He can escape the rush due to his nimble feet and is instinctive knowing when he has to bail. The thing I like is his ability to maintain his focus under pressure. He can make things happen with his arm or feet…GRADE-6.8

Scrambling Ability                  

Pike is dangerous throwing on the move, but despite his mobility and quickness, he does not take too many opportunities to run with the ball as some scouts would like. He is quite effective throwing on the move and is capable of hurting a defense with his legs, though (see 2007 SE Missouri and 2008 Miami Ohio, West Virginia and Pittsburgh games). He is a

big, athletic and agile scrambler who throws with ease on the run, whether from the right or left hash. He has good velocity on short-to-intermediate throws on the move and makes the tough tosses due to his agility, but needs to pace himself better than he did later in 2008, as he tended to rush some throws rather than step up in the pocket like he did in the past. While his throws from the outside hash are impressive, he is effective when pulling the ball down and running with it. Once he finds the open rush lane, he will get good yardage…GRADE-6.9

 

Compares To

JOE FLACCO-Baltimore…Pike might not have the bulk that Flacco possesses, but both will greatly impress you with their long ball accuracy and surprising mobility in and out of the pocket. He demonstrates great presence in the huddle and displays the pass set up and follow-through with excellent field vision to look defenses off and be able to hit his targets in stride (just needs to make quicker progression reads).

OVERALL GRADE-7.21

 

CAREER NOTES

In twenty games at Cincinnati, Pike started thirteen contests, hitting on 285-of-450 passes for 3,421 yards, 28 touchdowns and 16 interceptions, adding three scores on 72 carries for 145 yards (2.0 avg) while amassing 3,566 yards on 522 offensive plays (6.83 yards per play/ 178.30 yards per game)…His pass completion percentage of 63.33 topped the previous school career-record of 60.9% by Ben Mauk (2007)…Pike’s pass completion percentage of 61.42 in 2008 rank third on the Bearcats season-record list behind Danny McCoin (64.23% in 1986) and Eric Vibberts (62.6% in 1994)…His touchdown/interception margin of plus-12 (26 tds/15 ints) rank fourth on the school all-time record list behind Gino Guidugli (plus-30; 78 tds/48 ints; 2001-04), Ben Mauk (plus-22; 31 tds/9 ints; 2007) and Danny McCoin (plus-13; 39 tds/26 ints; 1984-87)…Pike’s 28 touchdown passes place him tied with 28 Troy Bodine (1983-84) for ninth on the school career-record list…His 285 pass completions topped Eric Vibberts (258, 1993-95) for ninth on the Bearcats career-record list…With 3,421 yards passing, Pike moved ahead of Chad Plummer (3,248 yards, 1995-98) for tenth in school history…Threw for over 250 yards six times in 2008, the most by a Bearcats quarterback since Greg Cook produced eight consecutive 250-yard performances in 1968…His 324 pass attempts in 2008 tied Danny Barrett (1982) for ninth on the school season-record list while his 199 pass completions that year placed eighth on UC’s annual record chart…His 2,407 aerial yards in 2008 surpassed Barrett’s 1982 total of 2,222 yards for ninth on the Bearcats’ season-record list while his passing efficiency rating of 136.39 as a junior topped Danny McCoin (134.34 in 1986) for eighth on the team’s annual record book…Only Ben Mauk (31 in 2007), Gino Guidugli (26 in 2004 and 22 in 2002) and Greg Cook (25 in 1968) threw for more touchdowns in a season for the Bearcats than Pike’s total of 19 in 2008…Threw for over 300 yards three times in his career, as his 320 yards vs. Akron in 2008 rank 28th and his 309 yards vs. Pittsburgh that year rank 36th on the school game-record chart…His 362 yards passing vs. Rutgers in the 2009 season opener topped Gino Guidugli (353 vs. Miami of Ohio in 2002) for ninth place on the school game-record passing list…His 369 yards in total offense vs. Rutgers in 2009 rank 11th on the Cincinnati game-record chart…Gained 2,454 yards in total offense in 2008, moving ahead of Danny Barrett (2,181 yards in 1982) for ninth on the school season-record list, as his 380 plays participated in rank tenth on the annual chart…His 53 plays of total offense vs. Syracuse in 2008 rank 13th on the Bearcats’ game-record list…Pike’s 31 pass completions vs. Oregon State in 2009 tied Gino Guidugli (vs. Army in 2001) and Greg Cook (vs. Miami, Ohio in 1968) for third on the school game-record list, topped by Cook’s 35 completions vs. Ohio University in 1968 and 35 completions by Deontey Kenner vs. Southern Mississippi in 1999…Pike’s 49 pass attempts in the 2009 Oregon State clash tied Cook (vs. Houston in 1968) and Troy Bodine vs. Akron in 1984) for tenth on Cincinnati’s game-record chart… Pike was involved in 55 offensive plays vs. Oregon State in 2009, moving past Ben Mauk (54 vs. Louisville in 2007) and Gino Guidugli (54 vs. Miami, Ohio in 2002) for tenth on the school game-record list.

 

2009 SEASON

All-Big East Conference first-team preseason selection…Named by The NFL Draft Report as the most underrated quarterback in college football…Preseason list member for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award…Elected offensive captain for his final season…Named the Big East Conference Offensive Player of the Week in the season opener vs. Rutgers… Ranks 13th in the nation and second in the conference with a 165.03 pass efficiency rating after three games, playing in nine quarters of action…Second in the Big East and tied for 11th nationally with an average of 315.33 yards per game in total offense…Placed tied for eighth in the major college ranks while leading the league with an average of 25 pass completions per game and 923 yards passing…Leads the Big East in points responsible for (20.0 ppg, tied for fourth nationally) and completed 75-of-106 passes (70.75%) that includes eight touchdowns and two interceptions…Added 23 yards and a score on nine carries (2.56 ypc) and gained 946 yards on 115 offensive plays (8.23 ypc)…Engineered sixteen touchdown drives and one other that ended with a field goal…Threw for 40 first downs among his 75 completions, as 39 of those tosses gained at least 10 yards, including 11 for 20 yards or longer…Made 14 of those pass completions inside the red zone, including three on goal line plays.

 

 

 

2009 GAME ANALYSIS

Rutgers…While most major college teams open their season vs. “patsies,” the Bearcats faced a formidable conference foe and sent a resounding message to the rest of the NCAA – Cincinnati is for real, thanks to the continued excellence and emergence of their team captain. Pike threw for a career-high 362 yards on 27-of-34 attempts (79.41%) that included three touchdowns and one interception, earning Big East Conference Player of the Week honors…The strong-armed passer connected with nine different receivers, as he engineered seven scoring drives (six touchdowns, one field goal) before the “good soldier” took off his helmet to observe the game prior to the start of the fourth quarter of Cincinnati’s high-speed, no-huddle offense that resulted in a 47-15 win…On the season’s opening possession, Pike completed all six passes, finding four different targets to generate 71 aerial yards, including a 16-yarder to Mardy Gilyard and a 27-yard flag pass to D.J. White that was downed at the Rutgers 4, setting up a 2-yard touchdown run by tail-back Isaiah Pead on a 9-play, 81-yard series…On the next drive, Pike picked up 16 yards on a third-&-1 run, but after he was sacked for a 9-yard loss on the next play, he came back to hit Armon Binns with a 14-yarder before finding White with a 16-yard pass into Rutgers territory. He got the team to the Rutgers 13 with a third-down 7-yard toss to Gilyard that set up Cincinnati’s 30-yard field goal for a 10-7 lead they would never relinquish…Pike’s lone miscue saw Rutgers’ Alex Silvestro intercept his pass attempt early in the seconds quarter, but the QB engineered a 63-yard, 6-play possession on the ensuing drive that included a 22-yarder to D.J. Woods before Pike connected with Gilyard for 13 and 7-yard completions that led to a 4-yard scoring scamper by Travis Kelce…Late in the second stanza, he found Gilyard with a 23-yard toss, fired a 32-yarder to Jacob Ramsey and then hooked up with Gilyard again for a 5-yard touchdown that concluded a 7-play, 71-yard drive with 2:30 left in the half…Cincinnati got the ball back on a turnover and Pike immediately went to work in the waning minutes of the second quarter, finding Isaiah Pead with an 11-yard strike. Two plays later, Pead hauled in a 41-yard touchdown from his team captain to push Cincinnati’s lead to 31-7. Pike would go into the locker room at halftime, having completed 20 of 25 pass attempts for 286 yards…The third quarter saw Rutgers’ nightmare continue, as Pike came out of the tunnel to throw an 11-yarder to Gilyard on the first play of the second half, followed by a 25-yard pass to Ben Guidugli, who also caught a 9-yarder from the Bearcats quarterback, setting up Travis Kelce’s 2-yard scoring run…On his final possession before leaving the game, Pike delivered a key block on defensive end Alex Silvestro that opened a path for a 62-yard run by Jacob Ramsey. The QB kept the 9-play, 85-yard drive alive by flipping a third-&-8 pass to tight end Kazeem Alli for 22 yards and a first down at the Rutgers 1. After Cincinnati failed to punch the ball in on a pair of carries, Pike took a quick snap and lobbed a 1-yard scoring pass to Ramsey, staking Cincinnati to a 45-7 lead…After the game, head coach Brian Kelly noted, "I think it's pretty obvious we got off to a great start, got into a great rhythm offensively. When you have a veteran quarterback in our system, again, two years is being veteran for Tony (Pike); it's his second year but he's got a better grasp of what we do offensively and essentially we had the pen last when you have a quarterback that under-stands our system. And I think we made it difficult for Rutgers to stop us today. We wanted to be aggressive offensively and I thought it was important early on to really do some things that a lot of college football teams aren't doing in the opener and that is being really aggressive…Asked if he was surprised on the time Pike had in pocket, Kelly said, "It took a lot of planning on Tony's part, a lot of film study. We knew we were playing Rutgers last April so he really did his due diligence relative to the schemes. He made one read for the sack which was a mistake on his part which was good because it kind of woke him up a little bit because it got a little easy for him at times. They are a very difficult defense to prepare for if you only have three days. We had an advantage of having three or four month and that really helped us today. They are difficult to figure out sometimes…Asked about Pike’s overall performance, the coach stated, "I don't think this defines who he is as a player and I don't think this game defines our football team either. I think we are a work in progress. We are happy with how we played today and how we executed, that's a sign of good things. Tony has to do it consistently. He has to be able to answer the bell, week after week. Talk to me in about six or seven weeks and if he is still doing this then he will be a guy you need to really pay attention to because I think he can do some very good things."…Record Watch-Pike's career-high 362 yards passing were the most by a Bearcats quarterback since Gino Guidugli's 353 yards vs. Miami (Ohio) in 2002 and surpassed Guidugli’s total for ninth place on the school’s game-record list…Pike’s 27 completions are one shy of his career-best; 28 vs. Syracuse in 2008…His 37 pass attempts also rank behind his career-high of 44 tries in that same Syracuse contest…His 369 yards in total offense topped his previous career-high of 342 yards vs. Pittsburgh in 2008 and rank 11th overall on the school game-record chart…Pike’s pass completion percentage of .7941 rank rank as the second-best game total for his career, topped by his .8125 pass completion percentage (26-of-32) vs. Pittsburgh in 2008…Pike Offensive Impact-The QB threw for 15 first downs and converted 5-of-7 third-down plays. He had 13 completions for at least 10 yards, including seven for 20 yards or longer and the opposition managed to deflect just two of his 34 pass attempts, as he sacked once for minus 9 yards, and generated 369 of the team’s 564 yards in total offense…Pike connected with nine different Bearcats on his 27 pass completions, as he engineered six touchdown drives and one other possession that ended with a field goal in three quarters of action.

 

Southeast Missouri State…With the Bearcats unveiling their 2008 Big East championship banner, Pike gave the fans their money’s worth. After missing on his first three pass attempts, he went on to complete 23 of his next 24 tosses before leaving the game late in the second quarter, amassing 229 yards with three touchdowns, as he also scored on a goal-line run in a 70-3 blowout…Pike bounced back from a three-&-out game opening drive to connect twice with Mardy Gilyard on 15 and 12-yard tosses to get into SEMO territory. He then rolled out and fired a 19-yard touchdown to tailback Jacob Ramsey to end a 68-yard, 7-play series…Later in the first quarter, he showed off his arm strength with a 54-yard seam pass to Armon Binns that was downed at the SEMIO 1-yard line. From there, Pike kept the ball and powered his way into the end zone for his second career rushing touchdown…A roughing the passer penalty by SEMO’s Justin Love put the ball at the 3-yard line. Two plays later, Pike exacted a bit of revenge for that illegal by Love, leveling the right defensive end to spring Gilyard for a 1-yard score on a reverse, giving the Bearcats a 28-3 lead after just sixteen minutes of action…On their next series, Pike flipped a 10-yard flag pass to D.J. Woods, hit Gilyard with a 35-yarder to get the ball to the SEMO 8 and on the next play, Gilyard caught the QB’s 8-yard lob for another touchdown…Before leaving the game prior to halftime, Pike gave the Cincinnati fans another six points up on the board, as he first threw a 12-yard slant to Armon Binns and then worked with Marcus Barnett on a pair of third-down completions, a 15-yard strike that was followed by a 14-yard scoring pass to cap a 13-play, 75-yard possession…Pike was asked in the post-game press conference about playing Southeast Missouri and stated, “I think the biggest thing for us was getting out here and lock in. We didn’t have a day off, we came back and practiced. We can’t take any team lightly. They put up a lot of points last game. We knew it wasn’t a team we could just roll over.”…Asked about passing to Mardy Gilyard and he said, “It puts pressure on any defense you play against. The biggest thing it will start is our other receivers will step up. Teams will have to put up more pressure on him. He’s a guy that as a quarterback you like to throw to him.”…Record Watch-Pike’s three touch-downs gave him 26 as a Bearcat, moving to 11th on the school career-record list…Pike Offensive Impact-The QB threw for 11 first downs and converted 3-of-4 third-down plays. He had eight completions for at least 10 yards, including two for 20 yards or longer and the opposition managed to deflect just two of his 27 pass attempts, as he was not sacked, and generated 230 of the team’s 578 yards in total offense (note-the team gained 352 yards with Pike on the field)…Pike connected with nine different Bearcats on his 23 pass completions, as he engineered six touchdown drives in just under two quarters of action.

 

Oregon State…Cincinnati, ranked 17th in the nation, became the first ranked non-conference team to play at Reser Stadium (formerly known as Parker Stadium) since Brigham Young in 1977 and after the Beavers experienced Pike’s aerial onslaught, they might not be looking forward to meeting another quarterback of his caliber anytime soon. The Bearcats passer connected on 31-of-49 throws for 332 yards, marking the fourth time in his career he threw for over 300 yards in a game. He passed for three touchdowns and ran for another score while getting picked off once…Cincinnati’s 28-18 victory snapped Oregon State's streak of 26 straight non-conference wins at Reser Stadium, dating back to a 67-28 win over Northern Illinois (11/16/96)…The offense struggled a bit in the first half before Pike came out of the tunnel “firing” during the last two quarters…He was sacked for a 2-yard loss on Cincinnati’s first play from scrimmage and failed to put up any points on the board during four first quarter possessions…He converted two third-down plays for first downs with completions of 13 yards to D.J. Woods and 15 yards to tailback Isaiah Pead before coming back to Woods with a 12-yarder that got the ball to the OSU 25. Armon Binns then snatched an 18-yard pass from Pike, placing the ball at the Beavers’ 7-yard line, where Pike then kept the ball on a 7-yard option play for a touchdown three minutes into the second stanza…On their next drive, Pike’s fourth-&-1 pass was caught by his favorite target, Mardy Gilyard, good for an 11-yard pick up. The QB found Pead with a 10-yarder and flipped a 28-yard toss to Woods that got the ball to the OSU 1. Pike handed the ball off to Pead, took the legs out from under linebacker Dwight Roberson to open a rush lane and the UC tailback burst into the end zone for a 1-yard score to stake Cincinnati to a 14-8 lead…In the closing seconds of the first half, Pike eluded the blitz, rolled out and uncorked a 45-yard bomb that Woods hauled in for a score, letting UC go into the locker room at halftime with a 21-8 lead…OSU rallied in the second half, scoring ten points while also picking off one of Pike’s passes in the third quarter… Entering the fourth quarter, UC held on to a 21-18 lead. Pike then engineered a 79-yard, 12-play series, connecting with Pead on a second-&-11 throw for 12 yards and a 16-yarder to Gilyard on third-&-14. He kept that drive alive with a third-&-1 run for 3 yards to the OSU 20. Two plays later, he rolled right, sidestepped a potential sack and flipped a 19-yard touchdown to Gilyard that sealed Cincinnati’s third victory for the season…In the post-game press conference, Pike talked about the team’s early game struggles, noting, “It shows a lot of last year compared to this year. We went down early with the crazy, unbelievable crowd. You know, Oregon State is a great team; an obvious top 25 team. We were able to go through some tough times and come back out of them.”…Pike went on to praise the Cincinnati defensive squad, saying, “Everyone talks about losing ten guys on defense, but I believe our defense won this game tonight. (The offense) put (the defense) in a lot of hard situations early in the game, and they answered.”…Record Watch-This marked the fourth time in thirteen career starts that Pike threw for over 300 yards in a game…His 7-yard scoring run was the third touchdown that the QB scored on the ground as a Bearcat…His 31 pass completions tied Gino Guidugli (vs. Army in 2001) and Greg Cook (vs. Miami, Ohio in 1968) for third on the school game-record list, topped by Cook’s 35 completions vs. Ohio University in 1968 and 35 completions by Deontey Kenner vs. Southern Mississippi in 1999…Pike’s 49 pass attempts tied Greg Cook (vs. Houston in 1968) and Troy Bodine vs. Akron in 1984) for tenth on Cincinnati’s game-record chart…His 332 yards are the second-highest game total in his career, topped only by his 362-yard performance in the 2009 season opener vs. Rutgers…Pike was involved in 55 offensive plays, moving past Ben Mauk (54 vs. Louisville in 2007) and Gino Guidugli (54 vs. Miami, Ohio in 2002) for tenth on the school game-record list…His two touchdown passes gave him 28 for his career, moving into a ninth place tie with Troy Bodine (1983-84) on the school all-time record list…

Pike Offensive Impact-The QB threw for 14 first downs and converted 5-of-14 third-down plays, along with 1-of-1 fourth-down snaps. He had 16 pass completions for at least 10 yards, including two for 20 yards or longer and the opposition managed to deflect just three of his 49 pass attempts, as he sacked once for minus 2 yards, and generated 347 of the team’s 408 yards in total offense…Pike connected with seven different Bearcats on his 31 pass completions, as he engineered four touchdown drives and scored once on a rushing attempt.

 

 

 

2008 SEASON

All-Big East Conference second-team selection by the league’s coaches, media and Phil Steele…Super Sleeper Team choice by The NFL Draft Report…Member of ESPN’s All-May Day Team, a squad that honors college players who have shown a tremendous amount of toughness and determination through-out a season and/or career…Listed fourth on the depth chart entering spring camp, Pike moved into the starting lineup for the third game of the season, starting ten of the twelve contests he appeared in for the Bearcats…Missed the Marshall and Rutgers after he suffered a left forearm fracture…Underwent surgery on September 29th, as he had a plate and six screws inserted, but on October 25th, wearing a soft cast, he returned to the lineup to take snaps vs. Connecticut…Went on to complete 199 passes (eighth on the school season-record list) on 324 attempts (tied for ninth on the UC annual record chart), as his pass completion percentage of 61.05 ran third on the Bearcats season-record list…His touchdown/interception margin (19/11) of plus-eight rank third on UC’s annual record books, while his nineteen scoring strikes rank fifth…Placed third in the Big East Conference and 35th in the nation with a 136.39 passing efficiency rating, the eighth-best season mark in school annals…115 of his 199 pass completions (57.79%) resulted in first downs, as he helped engineer 45 successful third-down plays (on 118 chances, 38.14%) and four successful fourth-down plays (12 attempts), as he saw action on 380 offensive snaps…97 of his pass completions (48.74%) were good for at least ten yards, including 27 tosses that gained at least 20 yards each (13.57%)…Had just 22 of his 324 pass attempts (6.79%) deflected by the opposition…Added 47 yards with one touchdown on 56 carries (0.8 avg)…Registered thirteen first downs on the ground, as he converted eight third-down plays with his feet, gaining at least 10 yards rushing on five of those 56 attempts…His 2,454 yards in total offense rank ninth on the school season-record list, as his average of 204.5 yards per game placed fourth in the Big East…Was sacked 18 times for losses of 118 yards and fumbled three times, but the Bearcats recovered each of those miscues…Pike’s mobility was evident, as the opposition was able to register just two pressures on the quarterback for the season.

 

 

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